The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is considering a company’s request to revise federal regulations to allow nuclear power plant operators to use their decommissioning trust funds for removal of major components prior to shutdown.
The agency on March 20 docketed the rulemaking petition filed in February by Gerard Van Noordennen, vice president for regulatory affairs at nuclear services firm EnergySolutions, on behalf of his employer.
Current NRC rules generally prohibit use of decommissioning trust funds for expenses not directly related to decommissioning, which does not begin until a plant has ended operations. The fund can only be accessed for planning purposes until the facility owner provides the agency with its post-shutdown decommissioning activities report, which is allowed up to two years after closure.
Now, a regulatory exemption or amendment to NRC rules on plant licenses is needed to use decommissioning trusts for pre-closure disposal of major radioactive components such as retired reactor steam generators. If approved, the rulemaking would eliminate the need for such measures.
“The purpose of this Petition is to provide a process framework in the NRC regulations to permit a licensee in advance of ceasing operation at a site to facilitate the decommissioning process by allowing decommissioning trust funds, in cases where excess funds can be shown to exist, to be used for disposal of removed MRC’s,” according to the EnergySolutions petition.
The Salt Lake City-based company cited several benefits to approval of the petition, including: improving environmental stewardship by removing radioactively contaminated equipment from power plants; reducing the potential for radiation exposure by plant personnel; and shrinking the total cost of decommissioning “by avoiding future escalation in disposal costs due to spikes in demand resulting from numerous plants waiting until they shut down to dispose, creating a situation where eventually the majority of the fleet is seeking MRC disposal at the same time.”